Before I read the Bible…
Before I began to read the Bible on my own, I did not give it any credibility. I was told that it had been changed. It was only when I opened it that its truth was revealed to me. I began with the Gospel of Luke, which gives a chronological and factual telling of the life of Jesus. It spoke to me, or rather God spoke to me through this Gospel. It is as if Jesus himself walked out of the pages and presented himself to me.
What Christians believe about the Bible can be summarized as follows:
The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.
It is the traveller’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. Here too, Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed.
Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure.
It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labour, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.
(These words are printed inside the New Testaments of The Gideons International.)
But is all this true? How can Christians be sure that this book is nothing less than the Word of God revealed to the world?
A. The Prophetic Accuracy of the Bible
Dozens of times in the Bible we read that God speaks to reveal the future. These are not vague predictions like those that can be read in a horoscope or those of fortune-tellers. On the contrary, they are very precise, detailed and clear. (By the way, have you ever wondered why fortune tellers are not multi-millionaires. Surely they should be able to predict the lottery figures successfully!)
The prophets of the Bible have predicted the future of individuals, cities and nations. There are many examples of these predictions, but to illustrate them, let’s look at some prophecies. We can only select a few because there are more than 300 prophecies, at least 61 of which relate to Jesus alone.
The whole Bible speaks of Jesus.
The Old Testament foretold his coming, his life, his work, his death, his resurrection and his lasting influence. On many occasions, there are detailed prophecies about him so that no one has an excuse if someone misses His coming.
The New Testament, (written when there were hundreds of witnesses still alive,) describes him, his work, his teachings, and demonstrates how this one life fulfilled all the prophecies contained in what is really the book of the Jews, Old Testament.
Christians could not adjust these prophecies to make them fit the life of Jesus, because they were written centuries earlier and were contained in the scriptures held by the Jews. The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated at 250 BC which are copies of the Old Testament books prove without doubt that these prophecies were written long before the coming of Jesus Christ.
The prophets had announced what would happen to the Messiah, long before Jesus was born and the crucifixion was even invented and used as a death penalty. These prophets had said:
- He would be betrayed by a friend.
- It would be sold for 30 pieces of silver.
- His back would be beaten up to resemble a ploughed field.
- He would be spat on him.
- He would die like a poor man but would be buried in the tomb of a rich man.
- He would be crucified between two robbers.
- The execution by the crucifixion was put in place around 300 BC. However, around 500 BC, The Prophet Zachariah and before him, the prophet Isaiah (700 BC), and even before him King David (1000 BC), all had described that Jesus would die by crucifixion, that he would have his hands and feet pierced.
- His clothes would be shared out and gambled for.
- The bones of his body would be dislocated, but none of them would be broken.
- Even the words that the executioners of Jesus would utter had been predicted.
- His body would not decompose.
- Through his death forgiveness would be possible.
- He would pray for those who persecuted him.
- He would rise from the dead. (See Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 11-12, Psalm 41: 9, Psalm 16:10 and Zechariah 11: 12-13)
Now, let sceptics explain how someone could predict what nobody could know in the future, without any errors.
If they are honest, people with integrity, they should explain all the prophecies of the Bible. When people begin to read the Bible, they find that God speaks with authority, convincing them of His authenticity.
B. The historical accuracy of the Bible
The Bible has been shown time and time again to be archaeologically and historically very precise, often to the greatest surprise of those who initially thought the Bible could not be true.
Dr. Nelson Glueck, the archaeologist, spoke of what he called “the almost incredibly accurate historical account of the Bible.” William F. Albright, recognised worldwide as one of the greatest archaeologists, said that “Excessive scepticism demonstrated towards the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, from which certain aspects still appear periodically, has been gradually discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of countless details and have brought a growing recognition of the value of the Bible as a historical source… We can categorically state that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted the biblical reference. Huge numbers of archaeological findings have taken place confirming the historical declarations of the Bible both in general outline or in exact detail. “Dr. Nelson Glueck, (1900-1971) Author, “Rivers in the Desert”, 1959, p: 136
C. Scientific accuracy of the Bible
The Bible speaks about scientific issues thousands of years before scientists “discovered” what had already been written.
The most ancient book of the Bible (Job) speaks of the earth as floating in the space of thousands of years before modern science made this discovery.
He stretches out the north over the void
and hangs the earth on nothing.
Long before Galileo spoke of the earth as a globe, and others speak of the earth as flat, the Bible spoke of the “circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22).
Thousands of years before medicine discovered that blood is the source of life and health, the Bible already taught: “Indeed, the life of a being is in the blood” Leviticus 17:11).
Centuries before oceanography, the Bible testified that the seabed contains deep valleys and mountains. We can read: “Then the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare,” and Jonas said: “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains… yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.” (2 Samuel 22:16 and Jonah 2: 7)
D. The incredible unity of the Bible
The Bible is a library of 66 books that divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament, bound together to constitute a single volume.
The Old Testament contains 39 books written before the birth of Jesus, while the New Testament contains 27 books written after his birth. The whole collection was written over a period of 1600 years by about 40 different authors from different backgrounds and cultures: Egyptian, Hebrew, Babylonian and Roman. Some of these books are historical, poetic, or prophetic. A number are teaching written as letters originally written to individuals or churches. However, there is total agreement and unity in content and teaching from beginning to end.
Indeed, the first and last book of the Bible, (Genesis and Revelation), are so perfectly interconnected (from “Paradise Lost” to “Paradise regained”) that they speak with the powerful authority of their Divine author (compare for example Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 21-22). Every writer describes the sad and broken state of Man because of sin, the remedy of God through Jesus, both because of who He is and what He has done. They uniformly show how Jesus brings forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit brings new life to those who believe. The
D. The absolute Honesty of the Bible
Someone said, “The Bible is not a book that a man could write if he wanted or would write if he could.”
The Bible does not honour man, but God. The characters of the Bible have feet of clay; they are presented with all their faults. God’s holiness and faithfulness are reflected alongside the depths of their sinful nature and unfaithfulness. Even the “heroes of faith” are enumerated in their failures, Noah, Moses, David, Elisha, and Peter included (Hebrews 11:9, Hebrews 11:20-24, Numbers 20:7-12, 2 Samuel 11, 2 Kings 19, and Matthew 26:74). They clearly show that the Bible was not written from a human perspective.
E. The incredible preservation of the Bible
No other ancient book has withstood as many attacks as the Bible. Despite political and religious persecution, the Bible is with us today. The Roman emperor Diocletian, following an edict dating from 303 AD. He believed that he had destroyed all the hated Bibles.
He erected a column on the ashes of burnt Bibles to celebrate his victory. Just twenty-five years later, the new emperor, Constantine, ordered the production of 50 Bibles, which, of course, had to be copied by hand, at the expense of the government!
During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the Bible was regarded as an instrument of Aristocratic oppression, and the government officially prohibited reading or even possessing a copy. The Social Contract of Rousseau was considered to be a literary work of much greater importance for the salvation of France. Voltaire (1694-1778), an atheistic philosopher, ridiculed the Bible saying:
He predicted that enlightened humanity, would stop reading it and that within a century there would be no more Bibles on the surface of the Earth. Fifty years after his death, the Bible Society of Geneva used his printing press and his house to produce Bibles! Three hundred years after the death of Voltaire the Bible is read all over the world, it is available in more than 4000 languages, but who reads Voltaire?
What unseen force has been deployed throughout history to protect the Bible in this way?
G. The message of the Bible, a source of transformation
The Bible though ignored by many, has a life changing influence for good on those who read and receive it.
Dr. Donald Currie Caskie (1902-1983) was a pastor in Scotland. He is best known for his exploits in France during the Second World War during which he helped about 2,000 Allied sailors, soldiers and pilots to escape from occupied France (mainly through Spain). It led to him being imprisoned in seven prisons between 1943 and 1944. One of them was Villa Lynwood in Nice. In peacetime, on this magnificent coast, the villa had been owned by a wealthy English lady. When Caskie was there in May 1943, the villa had been transformed into a torture house surrounded by barbed wire. Heavily armed men guarded each of the entrances. From his cell he could hear blood chilling cries. His diet consisted of stale bread and water. There were signatures engraved in the plaster of the wall of his cell. Some had been written by men whom he knew to be dead. With his nails long and uncut, he engraved his name and added verses of Isaiah:
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43: 1-2
He then prayed solemnly for the Holy Spirit to use these words to touch a tired soul in need of God’s peace. A Frenchman, Captain Vallet had taken Caskie’s place in the same cell. Frightened by the thought of impending torture, Vallet was about to open his veins and commit suicide when his eyes were attracted by the words engraved in the wall. The Word of God spoke to him, put his mind at rest.
Shortly after this incident, Vallet and Caskie shared a prison cell in San Remo, Italy. The soldier spoke to Caskie words that had prevented him from committing suicide. “I will never forget these words,” he said. To prove it, he recited them from memory. God had responded to Caskie’s prayer.
This is the influence of the Bible! The message of the Bible restores lives broken by sin.
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